Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and make it your career?
I was fortunate to be playing many instruments as a child and conducting choirs and chamber orchestras. Then suddenly I met a great pianist and person- Felicitas LeWinter- she has been a pupil of Emil von Sauer who had been a pupil of Liszt. She had the most amazing sound and talked about Friedman’s sound. She inspired me- I was 16 – and I was then determined to be a pianist- I had had wonderful teachers in Ireland but she had a very distinctive and important lineage of course! Later on I was touched when she said that I had finally achieved the Arthur Friedman sound!
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I studied with John Barstow at the Royal College and he was very important in my musical development- great passion for music and all music including opera- he opened my eyes. Then Maria Curcio who had studied with Schnabel was central in a very different way. She had a complete command of the piano and a great integrity – there was no showmanship unless it helped the expression of the music.
Other influences are of course- Richter, Giles, Carlos Kleiber and all the wonderful musicians I have worked with and continue to work with such as Svetlanov, Kurt Sanderling, Previn and Maazel – all great conductors.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Right now I am recording the complete Brahms and Schubert solo works for Chandos – this is a huge task and very daunting but I am taking it slowly and methodically and I am learning so much.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I love all my recordings. However, the ones I did with Janowski in Paris hold a special place for me. And of course I love these Chandos recordings.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I am not sure – I wouldn’t like to say. It is for others to decide I guess?
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I play anything that inspires me and that I feel I bring something to. Of course Brahms and Schubert figure a lot at the moment- that is a privilege!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I don’t have one. There are great acoustics all around the world, there are great halls in beautiful places, there are places I like because of personal connections, like Ireland.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
I don’t often listen to music per se as I want to concentrate on my own solutions – but I adore opera and go to performances a lot. When I was 18 and fresh in London I practically lived in Covent Garden and the ENO.
Who are your favourite musicians?
I love my friends who come to my festival every August in Clandeboye, Northern Ireland. They are warm passionate and brilliant people. I love Alison Balsom – she played with my orchestra Camerata Ireland many times. I love Lynn Harrell the cellist and Chio Liang Lin the violinist – we worked together often.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I think there are many – too many. I can’t choose one in particular.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
You must be true to the music and be honest. Performance is not for show, but it must also look good- it is an entertainment (a refined one of course) but people want to see and hear something that will change them, and inspire them.
What are you working on at the moment?
My next Brahms and Schubert CDs – sonatas, Impromptus and intermezzi and the Paganini and Schumann variations of Brahms,
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting in Provence reading a book by the pool – perfect antidote to the pressurized concert season!!
What is your most treasured possession?
Apart from my family whom I don’t “possess” of course…….my Steinway piano I guess, and my Audi Quattro!!
What do you enjoy doing most?
Driving around Provence in the summer and eating a long lunch
Barry Douglas has established a major international career since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, Moscow. As Artistic Director of Camerata Ireland and the Clandeboye Festival, he continues to celebrate his Irish heritage whilst also maintaining a busy international touring schedule.
Barry Douglas’s complete biography